​Booking & Setting Up a Show

A lot goes into booking a show for an artist or band from start to finish. From rehearsing and coordinating to online and grassroots promotion, and from negotiating and communicating about availability to confirming other acts for the bill (whether you or your band puts the bill together or booker does - someone does the work).

The terminology regarding shows can sometimes be confusing for someone just starting out (words like: hold, load in, line check, draw, room cap, cover etc.). Bookers will often ask questions like “what’s your market history?” and “what’s your draw?” or “how many people can you bring out to the show?”

Here’s a brief overview of some terms:

Hold - Sometimes artists or agents will put a “hold” on a date when their working on routing / booking a tour and waiting for other dates to confirm so in that case venues will put you on “hold” if they have other acts who have reached out before you for the specific date you reached out for. Sometimes the booker will tell you have a second or third hold, and if the other bands who have that date reserved end up cancelling it, the night will go to you or your band.

Load-in: The booker will give you a load-in time for the show, this will vary from venue to venue, but will generally be about an hour before doors open. This is the time you bring your gear in and set it near the stage or onstage before the show.

Line-check: This is another word for “soundcheck” but it’s more of a quicker one right before the band plays. Rather than doing a full 20 minute or hour long soundcheck before the crowd gets there, often for headliners, the opening bands will just do a line-check and check their levels minutes before their set.

Draw: A draw is how many people you can bring to a show. A booker or venue will ask this so they can figure how many people will likely be there buying drinks, cheering you on, and paying the cover to get in. This could also determine a guarantee you’ll be paid, bar % or door deal you’ll get. Bars and venues rely on this draw sometimes to cover their expenses for the night (security, sound people, door people, bar tenders). They want to know that hosting you is going to benefit them.

Room cap: “Room Capacity” This is how many people the room/venue holds according to fire safety laws.

Cover: Door price /  Ticket price / How much it costs to get in.

A lot of people are involved in a live show. In addition to your band and the audience, there is usually a few other people involved: The promoter &/or booker, a sound person, a door person, other acts (that a promoter, band or you will have added to the bill) and the people who work at the venue.

First, the booker is who you’ll have to reach out to for a potential gig. This e-mail is usually listed on a venue’s website contact form.

Helpful Tips:

- If there are two different booker contact e-mails: local & national - email the most appropriate one

- Address the booker by their name if you see there’s a particular person

- Introduce yourself, your act or bands name (if you are one)with a brief paragraph & include a short description of your band / comparisons and that you’re looking to book a show

- Pick a few dates to send as options for booker (prior if you’re in a band make sure all members could do these days as possible options, some people may need to get off work or change their schedules)

- Include a link to any CURRENT single or album & some live video if you have available.

- Include you or your bands career highlights (like if you have been featured on any blogs, news papers, magazines or on any radio, tv) & where you have played in the area (list a few venues & locals acts you have played with)

- Include your contact info & social media links

The booker will ideally get back to you (usually within a few days but sometimes a couple weeks, if not, try e-mailing again/follow up. Try following up a week-10 days later) and let you know if the date is available or sometimes they will recommend other venues that may be a better fit or other possible dates if the one requested is already taken. If the date is open and your band is given the gig, the booker may ask you to find other locals acts to support the night. Local bands will help bring in a bigger crowd especially if you’re not from the area. If you’re booking a show outside of your hometown, it’s integral to get local supporting bands. You can find other bands on sites such as http://reverberation.com, facebook music groups, local music blogs to the specific city, venue website’s show calendars, and fliers other artists have hung up at venues or coffeeshops nearby. Also google searches can be helpful by looking up city names, band & genres tags. Sometimes bookers will also have a recommendation band list, so always ask incase they do!

Reaching out to other bands is similar to reaching out to the booker: be specific, be respectful, and include all the info in a clear and concise way!

Sometimes and ideally, a promoter or venue of a show or venue will help push this newly booked show out to online outlets and upcoming show listings. There won’t always be a promoter, but even when there is, it’s important to do your own promotion. There are many simple ways of getting your friends, family, and soon-to-be fans to your gigs. Sometimes venues, bars, coffeeshops, or houses that host events will have a built-in crowd but you can’t rely on this. That’s where online promotion and grassroots promotion come in! Once your show is booked and you’ve found other fitting acts to join the bill, make a flier and an event page on facebook and push it out to everyone you can! Give yourself a good month to promote and remind people, in person, and on social media.

Also ask the booker if they have a press list. Often they do! This can be helpful as they may have good contacts at local radio stations, blogs, and news outlets who you can email/reach out to help promote your show. Invite them to your show or ask if they can feature you, do an interview or live in-studio performance (radio) before the show to help get people out :)

Once you’re at your show, it’s important to know the door person’s and the sound person’s role.

The door person will sometimes tally how many people come into the venue and take the cover from anyone entering the show. The sound person will do the soundcheck/line check for bands, and ask you what your set up is. *Sometimes when booking (depending on venue, a booker will request you send an input list & stage plot for production so they know what to expect as far as your setup ahead of time).  They will want to know what you need on stage as far as instruments, microphones, and necessary cables, etc. to get the best sound. You can tell this person how high you want the levels in your monitors, and if you’re singing - whether you want reverb added to your voice or not. Don’t expect them to read your mind! They’re there to make it sound the best it possibly can.

At whatever level you are at, it doesn’t matter, you have to start somewhere! If you are just starting out just know even bigger artists who have been playing for years also have their own booking or show / touring struggles. So regardless of the level, hopefully this post and some of these suggested steps and tips might help making booking easier!

Additional Tips:

- http://www.indieonthemove.com is a great database for bands and musicians starting out looking to book their next gig. There are listings on this site of music venues all over the country, and they will even tell you how many people fit in the room, what genres they host, and who to contact to book a show. We would highly recommend checking this site out and becoming a member! It will help you locally as well as country-wide once you’re ready to take your act on the road! The benefits of this site are great examples of what you need in order to book shows.

 Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Respectfully Approaching People & Pitching Music Industry Professionals

It is definitely and without doubt (now, and it has been for for years) a necessity for a band or artist to connect with people and industry in order to grow and be a part of the music community.

When reaching out to bookers, promoters, studio engineers, blogs, radio DJs, magazines or other bands, artists you want to connect with, or anyone else in the industry, or even future fans, it is important to be aware of how you’re approaching them.

Whether reaching out via social media (Facebook messenger, Facebook Pages, Instagram messenger, etc), e-mail, or in person, it is equally as important to be courteous and respectful.

Most likely the person you are trying to reach has a busy schedule - whether they are an artist, industry person or even a music fan, it’s important to take this into consideration. Think about how you would want to be approached or written to. Also be aware that without artists and music, labels would not exist, so it does go both ways, we are in this together and need each other for our industry to grow.

Online: Kindly introduce yourself, acknowledge their name, get to the point and be professional. If you want to send a video or music link to an engineer you want to work with, or a label rep, understand that Facebook messenger or any public social media platform isn’t always the best way to reach them directly. Sometimes you will not receive a response this way or right away. Instead, try going to the official website, find an e-mail on the contact page and address the person politely, tell them who you are, and why you’re reaching out. Or, if you do reach out on social media, ask them if this is the best place to send them your music or briefly explain why you’re reaching out and if there is a better place they’d prefer you write to (i.e: e-mail)

Too often people are bombarded by random people / artists spamming links to people with their music with no explanation or asking for demands without saying who they are and because of this people (industry & fans) are being turned off immediately and making it harder for the artists who work really hard and care. Please consider taking your time to consider who you’re approaching without wanting a quick fix/answer. Take your time to research the right people... making sure it relates (meaning “I saw you were a fan of _____, my band has a lot of similar influences  & has been compared to ______” or “I saw on your credits you recorded _______, and you work with a lot of metal. We’re a metal band who is in the same vein as ______ and think you’d understand our band’s sound and us so we’d love to talk about working with you.”)

Different labels, media outlets, industry people, and artists will vary in their means of contact. It’s important to think it out... why are you contacting this person? What is your goal in contacting them? What can they, in turn, benefit from you reaching out to them? What makes it worth it? Let them know! Use proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and full sentences. Sign your name and let them know how they can get in touch with you.

In the end it is about respect. Respect this person’s time, don’t insist anything of them - Respect their space, don’t expect them to get back right away and if they don’t, don’t pester them. They likely have a lot on their plate and a lot of people reaching out. But also do not be afraid to contact people, ask and follow up. Just like performance is a risk of being open to an audience so is reaching out to people in a positive way.

Tips:

- if you don’t hear back try following up about 10 days to 2 weeks later (this is not a set rule but a suggestion. Often 3-4 follow ups later you might hear from a booker saying “so sorry for late reply, we actually have that date, just have been so busy with the shows, my other 3 jobs and family life”. This is very common and people get lots of e-mails. Don’t lose hope and always think their uninterested)

- when approaching a fan consider comparing your songs to some other artists they may know or if you see they like and work with your genre tell them so they have an idea what they might be checking out.

- when emailing a blog, prospective label or management person, please definitely do your homework on them. Make sure they’re the right person to be reaching out to.

- try introducing yourself, be clear about what you’re asking / pitching, send a brief paragraph on yourself/your band, your career highlights (bigger bands who you have played with, bigger venues, radio stations, magazines or blogs who have featured you, and definitely tell them who you sound like.

- If you call an office of a music business professional or an individual when leaving a message always talk slow and when leaving your return # repeat it twice. Sometimes the first time people don’t catch it.

- absolutely always include a few online links.

The biggest risk you may take is not taking one, so take a chance and don’t be afraid to contact people but do it respectfully:)

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Finding the right studio/producer/engineer

When you go to record, you want to make sure you’re prepared as much as possible, especially if you’re funding something yourself without help or a label as we mentioned in our post ‘Preproduction and Preparing to Record.’ You will want to have all the right tools you need in order to get the most out of it and to get the best product. Tools such as having the songs well rehearsed and practiced, a vision for the songs, goals, a plan, an understanding of the sounds you want, and knowing the songs inside out so that when it comes to tracking you are ready. A huge component to making your recordings a reality is finding the right Producer, Engineer &/or Studio, or even having a plan in place to do it yourself. Either way, finding the right match to your music and sound is important - whether a songwriter, punk band or pop artist... regardless of genre, finding the correct place and person to record and capture the songs is imperative!

There are studios all over the world, and in a ton of places you wouldn’t ever expect. In big cities, in small towns, in warehouses, in churches, in garages, converted houses etc. and with the new digital age, on our home computers or mobile laptops. The location doesn’t have to be close to you to be the right one either. It’s not uncommon for a touring artist or band to record on off days while on the road with a producer from another city. In addition, artists and producers around the world are also making great use of the internet by sending recorded files back and forth to each other.

Most of the time, the style that comes out of a particular recording could be due to the engineer/producer. Depending on their experience, and their knowledge, this person can make a song sound a certain way as well as a studio/room. (Example: if a Studio has a tracking room that’s large like a church and the engineer use’s lots of microphones on the drums this sound might be very distinctly big and roomy with natural reverb - or if they have a production suite in a major studio or even a home with a smaller set up where they program beats or live drums, their sounds might be known for being really tight and polished, with a focus on vocal production - it all varies.) Maybe they’re most well-versed in punk music, or pop music, or jazz. Of course there are exceptions to this and people of different genres who collaborate, but for the most part you want to work with someone who can bring out the most from your sound, knows the influences you have, or is familiar with the scene you play in and your style.

If you know this person or if you don’t, first ask them what their specialty is or which bands/types of music they have worked on in the past to get an understanding of their background. If it’s similar to what you do, maybe this person is a great fit. Ask for some samples and see if you can get a list of their discography that lists their credits.

Another thing to consider is price. What is your budget? How much can you afford per day, hour, or per song or per person? Some studios have per-hour rates that may or may not come with an engineer (price will change), and some studios will have day rates and there’s an extra charge for an assistant or engineer. Producers may have a day rate or even a per-song rate, but the amounts will vary from person to person, mostly depending on the studio, the person’s background, and their skill level. Some do everything - record, mix & master - while others do not.

Tip: If you’re self-producing and need to record or need to find a producer or engineer - do your research. Search on the internet and look up studios near you, try looking up the bands or artists you love to find the places they’ve recorded or who they recorded with. Ask your friends or people you know who are similar to your sound where they recorded. Then find out what these studios or people offer and the prices they are, and also reach out to producers (e-mail, websites, social media, phone calls). Often the producer will have access or know a studio that he or she likes to work out of and can offer suggestions or good prices. Some producers also engineer and own their own studio so in that case prices will change! 

Keep in mind that all engineers/producers work at their own pace and the vibe is different with each individual place and producer. Meet up with this person prior to recording, visit the studio (most offer free tours), and see if something clicks!

Tip: For those who are new to recording, sometimes there are additional costs for mixing and mastering if the producer or engineer doesn’t offer this - so keep that in mind when budgeting. Also some artists will take recordings to a mixer (different engineer) after recording with another person, but really it all varies and there is no right or wrong way.  If you’re self producing, maybe you just go to the studio and use an engineer for some tracking and do some other tracking at home on your computer and then hire a mixer! Or maybe you can track it all at a studio and then you or your band can mix it if you have the skills to match your needs.

There are many different routes these days and no one way is right! All that matters is that the music sounds great and represents you well!

Extra Tips:

- For artists wanting to try to record themselves or even do Pre Production demos you can now get ProTools for about $25 a month to record on your computer, Logic Audio is available to buy for about $200, GarageBand comes macs.

- To look up different Artists or Bands album credits (for producer and engineer names etc) look up records onallmusic.com

  (Take at Studio 606 in Los Angeles CA)

 (Take at Studio 606 in Los Angeles CA)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder at The Den in North Reading, MA) 

(Photo by Doug Batchelder at The Den in North Reading, MA) 

Pre-Production and preparing for recording

You and/or your band are sounding like a solid unit, you’ve practiced multiple times on a regular basis, and you’ve possibly even played your music out in some venues. The songs are sounding good and you’re really happy with how they’ve come together - the next step could very well be stepping into the studio to record!

The first step for preparing for recording your songs is pre-production. Pre-production is one of the most important things an artist or band can do and have an understanding of, especially in this day and age when both money and time are such factors. Just like first promoting your show and then playing the show happens in two steps, so should pre-production & recording.

Pre-production is the time you spend to prepare your songs, practicing your parts as a band or artist, checking arrangements, breaking the songs down so you make sure everyone is playing the same notes, checking all the musical parts, practicing harmonies, refining lyrics, making sure the key is right, finding the tempos (whether you’ll play to a click or not, depending on your music) before entering the studio.

*A lot of us artists have some sort of home studio or computer recording setup available to us, and even with technology at our fingertips (which is a great luxury we have these days!) it can be overlooked. There are many opportunities to take your time to figure things out on your own for finding the best result - so take advantage of these things so when you spend your time and money on a great studio or great producer you are prepared!

When practicing your songs, you could even time yourself and see how long it takes you to set up all the instruments, play through the song(s) you want to record, *plus factor in the engineer mic’ing instruments and testing sounds (that will give you an idea of how long it might take in the studio to set up even before tracking). Find the BPM (beats per minute) of the song and try practicing to a click track, this will further tighten up the band and the song, speed up time in the studio, and when it comes to tracking it (especially via the computer), will give everyone a guide, allow the producer and everyone involved some more flexibility and creativity to build the song into something really cohesive and wonderful!

Tips:

- There are multiple tempo / click apps (try TEMPO) available for free or for a couple dollars online for iPhones or Smartphones that you can tap tempos out to.

- When you find a tempo for your song try it a couple beats slower and faster to see which sounds best!

- Try using a Phone or Computer mic to record your band or your songs to see how songs are sounding! This is a great way even if it’s rough to hear your songs.

- Typically full production indie band songs can usually be fully tracked in 1-2 days (of course depending on a lot of factors: if a band or artist is well rehearsed, instrumentation, style of music, budget)

- Typical studio rates can vary from $250-up (maybe cheaper depending on the place/location)

- Most average studios run $350-700 and up a day in major cities. Sometimes the rate includes the engineer if he or she owns the studio.

- Engineer rates average w/o a studio usually run $150/$250 a day and upward -or- $35 and up an hour

- Assistant rates run usually $100/150 a day

- Typical tracking hours in professional studios run 8-12 hours varying on the studio and engineer rates

Your friends, family, and fans are all going to want to be able to take something home that you created and that they can listen to over and over again. (Plus as a touring artist, CDs are a must have and merch sales help to pay for lodging, gas, and food. Recordings are also important for any band or artist who is serious about wanting to be a professional musician as it is an opportunity for online sales and a way for fans and industry folks who don’t live in the same city or country to hear you.

This is just a small glimpse into preparing for recording but above all, have fun and enjoy the process, learn who you are and what you like as you go - make sure to communicate how you want things to sound when you work with people; the more direction as a band or artist the better. Also, being flexible during the recording process will make things easier and less stressful. In pre-production, if it’s not sounding the way you want, experiment with some different pedals, amps, instruments, or even better - try different things out (second guitar parts, solos, arrangements, drums fills). Have a few great options and a couple ideas you can bring into the studio or to the producer so you can try things until you find your desired sound.

Recording can be a really great process and experience. Like anything though, it can become frustrating or present challenges when you least expect it - especially if you’re not prepared - so doing so will really help! Be patient, and understand that the recording process may take longer at first, but once you get familiar with how it all works, and familiar with a studio, it’ll get faster and become even more fun. Be respectful to the equipment, the people you’re hiring on the songs, whether it’s the engineer, assistant engineer, producer, mixer, etc. or hired players if there are any. They are all working with you to carry out your vision, and it can be a really rewarding experience for everyone when everyone’s on the same page!

   (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

 (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

   (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder)